Friday, December 01, 2006

Divorce rates by religious affiliation II

(Post five of a series on Christian divorce rates)

Here are more data--reporting divorce rates among ever-married respondents in two national surveys. Why present replications? This avoids basing our knowledge on the peculiarities of just one data set, for it allows us to find patterns across data sets. Yesterday and today's posts contain data from nine different data sets (or series, in the case of the GSS) coming from over 40,000 respondents, and guess what: all nine tell pretty much the same story (and a story contrary to common wisdom about Christians and divorce).

Next week I will discuss what I think that main findings are, but for now I present the data without commentary for people to draw their own conclusions.

National Survey of Families and Households, 1987-8, n = 10,439

52% Black non-active Protestant
49% No religion (e.g., atheist, agnostic)
46% Black active Protestant
42% Non-active Protestant
41% All non-Christians
40% Non-active Catholic
37% All Christians
34% Non-active other religion
33% All other religion
31% Active other religion
26% Active Protestant
24% Active Catholic

National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, 1995-6, n = 3,622

52% No religion (e.g., atheist, agnostic)
47% Black non-active Protestant
45% Non-active Protestant
45% All non-Christians
44% Black active Protestant
39% Non-active other religion
37% All other religion
35% All Christians
35% Non-active Catholic
32% Active other religion
25% Active Protestant
24% Active Catholic

For these data in tabular form, plus similar analysis of three other data sets, click here.

What do you think? Are these findings what you would have expected?

Technical notes

These surveys have less rich denominational labels, so I have collapsed religious affiliation into fewer categories. I.e., Protestant encompasses both evangelical and mainline. Other encompasses Jewish and other.

For the same reason, Black Protestant here means an African-American who affiliates with a protestant church (as opposed to attending a predominately black denomination).

Percentages report how many respondents had ever been divorced or were currently separated.

Active indicates attending church once a week or more frequently.

Credits and Disclaimers

Same as with yesterday's post.

Next Week

I'll resume this series on Monday with data about the relationship between church attendance and divorce among Christians. Next week I'll also evaluate the work of George Barna and Ron Sider on this issue.


Gary said...

Again, interesting results. The magnitude of the race effect relative to the religious participation effect is surprising.

Of course, there's still a major selection issue here with regard to the religious participation effect. For example, my pastor, currently an active Protestant, has been married for somewhere close to 40 years. I don't think he's ever been divorced. He has related that conversion to Christianity is what saved his marriage.

If that conversion hadn't happened, he would likely be a non-Christian divorcee (unless you're a Calvinist). So is it the fact that he's a practicing protestant that explains his non-divorced status or does conversion explain both?

I'd like to see two further analyses: religious conversion as a turning point (does it have a measurable effect on marriage survival for those who were married at the time of conversion?), and the within-individual effect of religious participation on risk of divorce (another survival analysis).

brewright said...

Good points Gary!

I completely agree that the simple bivariate relationship between these two variables is open to more than one interpretation... I think I've counted five so far (and will write about them on Tuesday).

Between-person or within-person analyses would certainly help choose between these interpretations.


J. R. Miller said...

Have you read the book on marriage by Michael Medved and his wife Dianne (sp?)? I hear him on the radio, and he contends that the divorce rate numbers are wrong and that Christians have a lower rate of divorce. Apparently he chronicles this with his wife, who is some kind of PhD, in one of his books. His resources may be of some interest in your continuing study.